NFL needs to sack its new rule on 'roughing' the quarterback

Terence Moore

Ah, these were the good, old days before the NFL’s new sack rule. Everson Griffen #97 of the Minnesota Vikings sacks Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers in the second quarter on November 22, 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Adam Bettcher/Getty Images photo.

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We’re just four weeks into a new NFL season, and we’ve seen turmoil and controversy surrounding the roughing the passer penalty that is overly protective of the divas of the league.

I'm referring to the quarterback.

While these gunslingers are the most valuable players for any franchise, they’ve been pampered too much these days. In fact, it has been disgusting to witness referees dictate the nature of the game.

I thought it was just me, but take it from a couple of guys who used to play the game, starting with Jamal Londry-Jackson, a former Appalachian State quarterback (2010-13) who was an All-Conference, All-America and Walter Peyton Award Candidate during his stint with the Mountaineers. Given his playing background, he’s now an informed NFL fan, and he said the calls for roughing the passer have been detrimental to the physical nature of the game.

“I think it’s having a negative impact on the game,” Londry-Jackson said. “Don’t get me wrong. As a former quarterback, I always wanted to be protected while playing, but I was also a competitor that loved competing. Defense is supposed to have an aggressive nature. The league is pushing so much passivity. They’re effecting instincts, which is one of the primary facets of the game.”

I also spoke with Jeremy Kimbrough who played linebacker for the Washington Redskins in 2013. He agreed that the referees are hindering defenders from playing a relentless style of football.

D'Mitri Chin covered  the 2017 Home Depot College Football Awards ceremony in Atlanta.
D'Mitri Chin covered the 2017 Home Depot College Football Awards ceremony in Atlanta.

“It’s really frustrating for the defender, and there’s really no way that you can gauge how you’re gonna come about hitting the quarterback,” Kimbrough said. “They’re padded up pretty good, so for you [referees] to call roughing the passer if a guy just pushes him down after he throws the ball, that’s just ridiculous.”

Kimbrough also said this penalty not only affects the defender’s mentality of the game, but it impacts the defensive scheme, as well.

“Being able to hit the quarterback is apart of some defensive game plans and to disrupt the quarterback,” Kimbrough said. “So, if you can’t touch the quarterback, then you’re basically throwing away a team’s defensive strategy on getting hits on the quarterback.”

No doubt, because football is now what it always has been, and that is, a vicious sport with barbaric tendencies. Even so, referees are suddenly spending games impersonating Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers by throwing with precision – except those refs are using flags instead of footballs. It’s worth noting that the league has had 34 roughing the passer calls through this season’s opening three weeks. Last year, only 16 roughing the passer calls were made.

Roger Goodell, we have a problem here, and for everybody from players to coaches to fans, it’s becoming colossal as the season progresses.

When members of the NFL’s competition committee coordinated a conference call Wednesday evening "to discuss the enforcement of roughing the passer rules with a specific emphasis on the use of body weight by a defender,” they made it clear they were not going to alter how they penalize players for sacking the quarterback. The committee also didn't consider the fact that football is a game played at full speed. Massive defensive ends and linebackers run 40-yard dashes in 4.60 seconds in today’s NFL. It’s impossible for defenders to brace themselves from collapsing on the signal caller when executing a sack.

Recently, Miami Dolphins defensive end William Hayes suffered an ACL injury by trying to avoid a penalty for improperly sacking the quarterback. Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has remained healthy, but he has suffered in other ways this season. For that same rule violation, he has been penalized in each of his team’s three games. Many players around the league have voiced their opinion on the matter, and they’ve shown disgust towards the referees favoring the offensive player regarding the penalty.

Surprisingly, quarterbacks in the league have also noted that the penalty is tilted too much in their favor. Ben Roethlisberger told ESPN after his Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday night, “There’s a lot of [flags for roughing the passer]. I don't want to criticize the officiating, especially when you're talking about a penalty that helps the quarterback out.”

Obviously, safety is vital in any sport, but football needs aggression, physicality and ultimately sacks that ignite the crowd.

No more.

Somebody had it right.

The NFL is the No Fun League, indeed.

D’Mitri Chin is a junior majoring in journalism with a minor in speech communication at Georgia State University. He is the former associate sports editor for The Signal, and he is currently a freelance sports reporter. He is also a contributor to The Douglas County Sentinel. In his spare time, D’Mitri enjoys lifting weights and playing basketball. You can follow D’Mitri on Twitter @1DMitriChin.